Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

Why was FlashForward canceled?

by Rob - June 23rd, 2013.
Filed under: FlashForward.

Over on Quora, someone asked why FlashForward was canceled, and someone else replied with an answer that was partially right but significantly wrong. That answer:

The Lost curse. In the 6 years that Lost was on the air, ABC failed at using that monster hit to launch any new shows. The term “Flash Forward” was first used in the third season finale of Lost, and the show featured Lost alumni Dominic Monaghan and Sonya Walger.

ABC launched FlashForward as well as a remake of V (with Lost‘s Elizabeth Mitchell) as shows that would take on Lost‘s audience after it ended. At the end, it was reported a choice between FlashForward and V over which one would continue, and ABC went with V, which only lasted one more season.

My response:

Despite XXXX’s comment (he asserts “the term ‘Flash Forward’ was first used in the third season finale of Lost” — as if that’s where the idea came from), that’s just not true.

FlashForward the TV series was an adaptation of my 1999 novel of the same name, published five years before the first season of Lost debuted.

More: as announced in Variety on 26 September 2002 — two years before Lost debuted — David Goyer was attached then to write, direct, and produce an adaptation of my novel FlashForward … which is precisely what Dave eventually went on to do (co-authoring the pilot with Brannon Braga).

Also, the pilot script for FlashForward was developed at HBO (which is why HBO is credited on each episode); HBO was not looking to imitate anything on broadcast TV. The casting of Sonya Walger (who appeared in only 14 of the 121 episodes of Lost) as FlashForward‘s female lead was in no way an attempt at Lost-related stunt casting.

FlashForward was cancelled for two reasons. The first was scheduling: the series was not suitable viewing for 8:00 p.m. / 7:00 p.m. Central (the traditional TV “family hour”), but that’s when ABC slotted it (and kept it for its entire run): the intensity, violence, gun use, and presence of a major lesbian character, brilliantly played by Christine Woods, is not what America wanted in that timeslot. So, by the end of the first season, the ratings were low.

The second reason was budgetary: Stephen McPherson, then president of ABC, did only want to keep one science-fiction show. In the end, we were delivering the same ratings each week as V, also on ABC, but we were produced in Los Angeles and had an expensive cast; V was produced in Vancouver and had a much less expensive cast. So, V was (sort of) renewed and we were not.

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66 Responses to Why was FlashForward canceled?

  1. I binge watched the 1st season in 3 days. This show was absolutely brilliant. The plot, characters, story line, cinematography, concept, and actors all brilliant. It would make for great tv in 2016. I think a lot of people would watch it if it had more seasons. I still can’t understand why in the h*ll it ever got canceled. As for the ratings, time slot , whatever. I’m thinking it shouldn’t have aired in 2009 but more like in 2011 or 2012 if they’d aired it then it would probably still be a running series right now. Since it ended in a massive cliffhanger with lots of ends never to be known I’m thinking it would be a good idea to make a film series adaptation maybe about 3 or 4 films to complete the story line or a mini series would do the job and give a lot of us fans of Flash Forward the answers we need as to the conclusion of this awesome storyline.

  2. I agree this show was brilliant, I also binge watched the entire first season in a few days myself. Its hard to believe anything was chosen over this series, and sad. I feel like there’s another reason we aren’t supposed to know about as to why this was cancelled.

  3. Was really bummed this show was cancelled. Can some PLEASE tell me what was up with the kangaroo???

  4. Martin, artistically, the kangaroo was a visual metaphor for leaping ahead in time; that it appeared again in “Scary Monsters and Super Creeps” foreshadowed the second flashforward, seen later in the series. As far as story logic is concerned, the kangaroo had been able to escape from the Los Angeles Zoo during the first global blackout.

  5. A question for anyone who has read the Novel, is it covering only season 1 of the tv series? or is it the same plot but different context?
    in other words, is it complete, or will it end with a lot of unanswered questions?

    Thanks

  6. Khaled, my novel is complete in and of itself. The storyline starts similarly to the FLASHFORWARD TV series, but concentrates on physicist character Lloyd Simcoe. The novel came first, and ends with a full resolution, not a cliffhanger.

  7. Thanks very much, I bought the German version of it, can’t wait to start.

    The TV series was really cool, too bad it was cancelled, hope that ABC have some second thoughts on that, maybe start it all over again, but this time stick to the book ;)

  8. Why even invest time getting to know characters on televion anymore of the powers that be are just going to rip them away from you?

    Time of my life ill never get back….

  9. This was one of the best series ever, wish there could be a second season. It was a real hit here in South Africa.

  10. Deron Clayton… I just wanted to point out you wrote your comment on December 12th, 2016 which was the date mentioned on the show as “The End” (on Episode 16) how cool is that?

    I love both the show and the book in their own right. I wish Netflix could pick up this show and continue it… they certainly aren’t afraid if lesbians or violence and are all up for interesting storytelling that’s outside the box.

    Thank you, Robert for creating all these interesting theories for us to read. I’d love to see more of your works turned into films or TV shows. I’d especially love to watch the Neanderthal Parallax as a scripted series on Netflix. I hope it happens one day!

  11. I watched the show religiously when it first came out. I thought the show was amazing and was highly disappointed when it was cancelled. Personally I doubt the lesbian character had anything to do with the cancellation, even in the slightest. There were plenty of shows with homosexual characters on family channels during prime “family” hours and they lasted a while. Will and Grace being one.

  12. I’ve been stuck to my laptop since first finding the show last week. I binge watched the entire season. It is hard to believe I missed it when it was on the first time so I guess I was watching V. I do wonder why the powers that be could not realize the quality of this one and bring it back the next year. That has been done before. It really is too good to waste and I’d love to go on.

  13. Glad I found this site. The TV show was a fantastic sci-fi show!!!! I havent gotten around to watch the last 3 episodes. I really think you need to pitch the show again maybe to another network such as SyFy, NBC, FOX, or CBS. I think the series would work well on CBS during the summer like for maybe 2018. Under the Dome is gone. CBS still has the Zoo but I think FlashForward could work on that network. Then there is always Netflix and Amazon Prime. As for why the show was cancelled, If I remember correctly, ABC was looking for a show to pair with Lost. I do agree with the timeslot thing. Your show should have been aired at around 10pm. TV show biz is a cut throat business. Networks have thin skin and if the show isnt an instant hit, out the door you go. FlashForward just didnt pull in the rating they were anticipating. However, FlashForward gained a strong cult like following. I crave for shows like this. A thinking show that expands beyond the borders of ones imagination. I do wish you luck on your other projects and hopefully a reboot or continuation of a new FlashForward.

  14. Having just watched the entire 1st season I’m also baffled that this show was cancelled. It was very high quality with great actors and a really engrossing story. Sure wish ABC had stuck with it or someone else had picked it up.

    Thanks for such a great story.

  15. Flash forward came up in conversation at the office today. It made me do a search to see whatever happened. I’m still hoping that the show resurrects somewhere like Netflix.

    Flash Forward being cancelled is actually a reason I don’t watch much live TV anymore. I don’t want to invest the time in the characters to have no closure if cancelled. I’m still bitter. Haha

  16. I have often wondered if Flash Forward has ever been considered for a reboot/remake, either as a weekly series or maybe even as a series of feature films. I mean, it seems like so many bad TV shows and/or movie franchises have gotten this treatment but not this gem of a show.

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